BEND, OR -- Bend City Councilors continue to work on a plan for converting a group of homes from individual septic systems to the city’s sewer service. City Manager Eric King says a broad approach is needed to accommodate more than just the initial 600 homes in southeast Bend, "There’s close to 3,000 homes in Bend that are on septic systems. And, as those septic systems fail, there is a state rule – it’s the Department of Environmental Quality that requires folks to hook up to the city sewer, if it’s within 300’ of their home." And that can be very expensive. King says city leaders agree the top priority is making sure the cost of switching from septic to sewer system is fair for everyone, "Your neighbor’s septic system fails, you put the expensive line in - as required by state law – and then the neighbor that’s right next door just, ‘oh! There’s the line right there.’ It’s a lot cheaper for them. So, we’re trying to provide some equity by coming up with a systematic solution."
This week, City Councilors identified four key issues, "Flexibility from the state: so, looking to see what we can get from DEQ, in terms of additional flexibility for timing," King tells KBND News, "That affordability: What is the cost share between the rest of the ratepayers? There is no magic bag of money sitting out here. So, in terms of how do we pay for this, do we charge all of our ratepayers or what’s the split with those homeowners? - With tools like local improvement districts." They’ll also look at the ability of people to pay over time and the potential to help with work on private property. King says the biggest concern is making sure people don’t lose their homes because they can’t afford to make the switch. "Really, every Council meeting between now and almost the end of the calendar year, we’ll be talking about those big four topics and coming up with some decisions. I would like, as early as October, to at least have the cost share worked out."
City Council heard from dozens of residents during two recent listening sessions. King says Councilors are taking that feedback, along with recommendations from the Septic to Sewer Advisory Committee, into consideration.